Hövding airbag collar protects the head and eliminates helmet hair


October 25, 2010

The Hovding airbag collar before and after inflation

The Hovding airbag collar before and after inflation

Image Gallery (8 images)

Airbags have been cushioning drivers in accidents since the 1980’s and are now standard equipment on most new cars sold around the world. With cyclists and motorcyclists being much more vulnerable on the road than their car-enclosed cousins there have been a number of devices designed to bring the protection of an airbag to vehicles of the two-wheeled variety, including the Hit-Air jacket and Honda’s motorcycle airbag. The latest is an airbag collar aimed at cyclists called the Hövding that is worn around the neck and inflates to enclose the rider's head in the event of an accident.

The brainchild of industrial designers Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, the Hövding (Swedish for Chieftain) is a collar worn around the neck that allows cyclists to feel the wind in their hair and cycle around town without suffering that most dreaded of afflictions – helmet hair. The device contains a folded airbag that fully inflates with helium in about 0.1 seconds thanks to a built-in gas generator. The air bag is triggered by accelerometers and gyrometers, which detect the “abnormal movement” of the rider in an accident.

To ensure the air bag doesn’t inflate during the normal course of a ride, the designers say they studied the movement patterns of a large number of riders in everyday cycling situations over a number of years. This includes fatal accidents staged with crash test dummies and other accidents staged with male and female stunt riders – check out the video below for some vision of the testing.

Collecting the resultant data they say they have developed a unique, patented, mathematical method that is able to distinguish between normal cycling movements and abnormal movements that would occur in an accident. Although, they do point out that in the unlikely event that an object falls straight down on a rider’s head from above the air bag won’t inflate – so riders will still need to keep an eye out for falling masonry.

The airbag system is enclosed in a waterproof fabric shell, which is removable using zippers and will be available in a variety of styles and fabrics to allow riders to mix and match the device to match their Lycra outfits. The collar’s weight is distributed evenly across the shoulders and is heavier at the back so that the bulk of the device’s weight rests on the rider’s back as they ride. When triggered, the seam at the upper edge of the collar bursts and the air bag inflates to envelop the head like a hood.

An on/off button is located on the collar’s zipper puller and the front of the collar features a logo-shaped LED that indicates whether the Hövding is on or off and the battery charge level. The device is charged via a micro USB port and a beep will also start sounding when the battery has about one hour of life left, increasing in frequency until the device is recharged. The micro USB port also allows the Hövding to be connected to a PC to update the software and customize on/off sounds.

Embedded in the collar there is also a “black box” that will save 10 seconds of data from a cyclist’s motion in and just before an accident. The developers ask anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be an accident while wearing the device to send them this data so they can use it to refine the device’s software. Anyone doing so will receive a discount on a new Hövding.

The Hövding was launched last week and can be preordered from the developer’s website at the special launch price of 2498 Swedish Krona (approx. US$380). When it hits stores in northern spring this year it will be priced at 2998 Swedish Krona (approx. US$455).

Via Wired

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

$455 for a one-time use product that you have to wear around your neck? No thanks. My $15 helmet with reflectors and sun visor seems like a whole lot better way to ride.

Dave Brough

i love it. what a great idea. I wonder how many times it inflates with a false positive



My sister spent many years working with paralyzed bike riders. I assure you that the protection offered is well worth saving lives and health.

I also think that this type of protection should be offered to football players to prevent serious head injuries although I do not know how it could be done. The present helmets are not satisfactory (see the latest NFL ruling). I think that in the long run, the football helmet and collar section will have to be designed into a single piece with the collar part somehow giving support to the helmet.

Adrian Akau

Fail! This thing wouldn\'t protect against impacts with hard sharp objects.Present helmets are designed to protect against both blunt and sharp object impacts. Having said that,I detest wearing helmets ( sweat in my eyes,helmet hair),and rarely ride my bike anymore.


I laid down a bike and went foot over head forward over the fairing hitting headfirst on the pavement (large scrape on the helmet).

Would this thing inflate by just flying forward? There would be no time for inflation before the skull hit the tarmac... maybe some decelerometer on the bike that communicates wirelessly to inflate the airbag even as your flying over the handlebars???

Matt Rings

These women don\'t look like motor bikers (nor the male model) Let\'s face it: Motor bikes are inherently dangerous. Fun to ride, maybe, but bikers should ride more responsibly, instead of roaring around, and weaving in and out of traffic. Safety laws that cover cars, just don\'t apply to bikes; i.e. seat belts, side protection;air bags, etc.


\"Lovely hair\" won\'t be so at 70 MPH so why the fuss? And how do you explain the missing helmet on this lawbreaker?

Fred Conwell

If this works as promised and they can get the price down to a reasonable level (below $100), I\'d buy one. I almost never ride without a helmet and they\'ve saved me several times, but I really don\'t like the feel of it on my head. I doubt anybody does. Helmet hair I don\'t care about. That\'s just aesthetic. I\'ve been to car-free areas and events where you\'re allowed to cruise anywhere down the street at a slow pace without worrying about crashing. It\'s great, but it\'s also a little frustrating that it\'s too risky to pick up the pace if you\'re not wearing a helmet.


Eh, the concept is there, but the reasoning behind it isn\'t. What exactly is the problem that this airbag solution solves? I don\'t see real benefit over current helmets. In fact, michael_dowling pointed out a new problem arising from it. Something no one really mentioned is the downside of wearing this bulky unit on your neck. My neck would get nasty, sweaty and there is no ventilation unlike current helmets. In addition, you\'d have limited mobility at the neck when looking around for traffic or down at your speedometer. I\'ll take my physical helmet and that oh so problematic helmet hair any day.

@t2af - Your comment is exactly what I\'m thinking too... There have been times where I\'ve just fallen over due to bad footing, but my head doesn\'t quite hit the ground. I\'d bet this airbag would go off and I\'d have to find a replacement.

Colter Cederlof

@Fred - a panic button which inflates it on approach of police?


i love all of the comments that refer to going 70mph, reading their speedometer, and the helmet-less design being "law-breaking". this is NOT for MOTORCYCLES.

John Twomey
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